How to code live music – Beginners

For summer camp this year, children learnt how to live code music with world renowned digital music and art performer Antonio Roberts. We want to share this amazing skill with others and have devised this online step by step guide using free online platforms. With simple code and clear instructions, this is the best way to have fun and explore a new talent.

What is live code music?

Live coding is a performance of coding changes to digital sound and digital art. The performance is improvised and uses a series of simple algorithms to inform the live composition.

This is an example of Antonio Roberts live coding at NTC club for ‘Creative Coding aka Digital Foraging’.

During summer camp, the children learnt some simple algorithms and began to experiment with the sounds to create their own expressions of live code music.


How to use Estuary

Estuary is a free website where you can use live coding to make generative music and visuals.

Estuary was designed and created by David Ogborn.

  • Once you are in the Solo Mode, click the arrow down on one of the 6 free boxes and choose MiniTidal in the dropdown options. This will be the coding language you will be using.

How to make a pulse and rhythms

To begin, you are going to focus on a particular sound and learn how to make a simple pulse and live code a repeated rhythm into it. You can either go through the step by step instructions or scroll down to see a video of how this is coded and how it sounds to learn how to create your own.

We are focusing on a bass drum (bd) sound to begin with so in the space under MiniTidal type the code

sound "bd"

Make sure your spaces and ” are correct. If you need help with typing copy and paste the code above into your Estuary webpage. It will look like this on your page

Click on the Play button to hear. You have made a bd sound that will continue playing once per cycle.


To play more bass drum sounds within the cycle add another

sound "bd bd"

press play to hear the difference and continue adding until you have a 4 beat cycle which will be

sound "bd bd bd bd"

You have now live coded a solid pulse.

To begin to add rhythm, double up your beats. For this you can either use brackets

sound "bd [bd bd] bd bd"

which will in this case, double the second beat of bass drum

or you can use the multiplication sign

sound "bd bd bd*2 bd"

which will in this case double the third beat of the bass drum.

Remember to click play each time you change the code to make the sound performance live.

Check out this video to see the code changes and hear the music made.


How to change the instruments

Now you can practice making different beats and rhythms using other sounds.

Try repeating the same code above. All the 4 instrument sounds are:

for bass drum             


for clap                         


for hi hat                       


for snare drum           


Remember to use the right spacings and “. If this is coded incorrectly you will see a yellow Syntax sign when you go to play your live code. The syntax will tell you how to check.

Play this video and see if you can spot the mistake in this live coding before the syntax prompt?


Now you have the basic learning to code live music. To advance your skills further check out How to live code music – Advanced to learn how to change speed, pitch and texture.

As with most things, it’s best to explore your digital music creativity now that you have a few live code tricks to use. As a learn’d live code performer once said, this process is for

artists who want to learn to code, and coders who want to express themselves“.

With big thanks to David Ogborn for creating Estuary which enables enquiring minds and coders to explore the vast possibilities of creative code.

And with just as much thanks to Antonio Roberts for having devising and delivering step by step live music coding workshops for our young people during BOM’s 2021 PULSAR summer camp.